Scotlands History

David Livingstone (1813-1873)

The son of a Blantyre shopkeeper, David Livingstone went to Africa in 1841 as a missionary doctor. He was one of the first Europeans to explore the continent, crossing the Kalahari Desert and discovering Lake Ngami (in present-day Botswana).

In 1852, ill health forced his wife and four children to return to Britain. Travelling by canoe, ox-back and on foot along with a few African servants, Livingstone trekked halfway across Africa to the west, then the whole way back from coast to coast – mapping the Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls in 1855.

Livingstone’s mission was to reduce slavery and he personally released 150 slaves after discovering Lake Nyasa. His last expedition in 1865 was to find the source of the Nile, but there were mounting problems of disease, lost medicines and stolen supplies.

In 1871, at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, the famous greeting of ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume?’ from Henry Morton Stanley of the New York Herald, left Livingstone as determined as ever. He continued his explorations until his death. His embalmed body was then carried for 10 months by faithful servants until they reached the coast.

  • A portrait photograph of David Livingstone.

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